JJ Pugsley

Be just a little bit better “you” every day in at least one way.


JJ Pugsley is the Founder, President, and Head Instructor of the Ronin Training Institute located in Denver, Colorado. His organization offers training courses in Jiu-Jitsu, self-defense, firearms, executive security, and more. His personal experience in executive security for over 15 years has given JJ Pugsley the opportunity to provide others with tools for personal safety and protection. As a second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he has gained a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience when it comes to training.

JJ has sought out countless opportunities in executive protection, stretching across 80 countries. He has provided safe keeping of CEO’s, celebrities, and political figures, most notable at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

One of the most unique aspect of JJ Pugsley and Ronin Training Institute is their desire to encompass more than just tactical ways to remain safe. Most of the course taught through Ronin focus on the psychological facets of self-defence. The psychological education enables individuals to develop actionable intelligence so that they can defend themselves during life-threatening situations or prevent them from occurring altogether. JJ Pugsley’s classes focus on the concentric rings of security and how to prevent an attack from occurring. Typically, an attack involves three variables — a victim, an attacker, and an opportunity. In his courses, JJ demonstrates ways to remove one of the three elements. This provides the opportunity to effectively prevent an attack from occurring. While it can sometimes be impossible to remove the threat of an attacker, you can eliminate the possibility of an attack with proper education and training.

In addition to his work with the Ronin Training Institute, JJ Pugsley continues to compete professional in Jiu-Jitsu events with the Fight to Win Promotions organization. He is currently sponsored by Bad Boy Brands, joining their elite pro team in 2016. He is also currently in the process of pursuing a doctorate in Neuropsychology to offer support that many veterans are not receiving. JJ Pugsley’s end goal is to open a non-profit, privately-funded, clinic to treat veterans with PTSD for free as an alternative to the Veteran Affairs Hospital.

Where did the idea for Ronin Training Institute come from?

As we service many areas of defence, there were a few instances where we noticed a lack of training or resources for various scenarios. We initially saw a need for law enforcement officers to receive more and up to date training on the AR-15. With the advent of active shooters and officers responding with AR’s while some had relatively little experience, we saw a niche market and wanted to hone in on it. Another was the need for structured womens and childrens self defense courses and and understanding of situational awareness. We also saw the need for comprehensive concealed carry permit classes that ensure persons that receive a concealed carry permit actually display proficiency (many courses are only 4 hours and participants are not even require to fire a gun in front of the instructor). Finally, we wanted to share our instructors combined 20+ years of executive protection experience in a hands on executive protection training course.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

In executive protection there is no such thing as a typical day, however on the training side a day starts out the night before with gear prep and a final check of all course materials. The morning of is loading equipment, weapons, fight gear etc and heading to the range/ gym. Classes progress with what, how why concept. This is WHAT we are going to do, this is HOW we are going to doing, and (most importantly from a conceptual standpoint) this is WHY we are doing it. Practical exercises and a debrief or Q&A session close out the day .We make the day productive by prior planning and efficient execution. Getting it done right on time and the first time ensures a greater margin for navigating the unforeseen. Strategically, we utilize concepts such as the Four Disciplines of Execution and the 12 Week Year to stay one track.

How do you bring ideas to life?

As the evolution of training for real world scenarios is ever evolving our preferred method for implementing new ideas is beta testing with subject matter experts and known authorities on the specific subject. Having a reputable second set of eyes to validate a new idea or technique legitimizes our ability to say “this is one way you can do it and be successful in most circumstances”

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The idea of radical transparency from Ray Dalio’s book Principles. Not only in his example of transparency and seeking the truth in regards to performance in the business model but with our clients as well. While all of our instructors bring a wealth of real world experience and knowledge to the training we never proclaim that what we are demonstrating is “the way” it is just ONE way of achieving a desired result.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Being a sponge. Constantly striving to learn and never settling at the idea that I am complete. I know that there is so much for me to learn and I try and display that mentality to all students.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be just a little bit better “you” every day in at least one way.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

There is no such thing as free will.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read. All of it, take in everything on your profession, learn something new on a totally new topic, escape with a novel that takes you away from the day to day rigor. Research has shown that neuroplasticity has been constantly, and empirically, demonstrated at ages we once thought were lost to synaptic development. You can teach an old dog new tricks and the key to staying relevant is to stay sharp. Exercise your mental acuity like you would exercise any muscle, if not more so.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Never turn down a meeting/ proposal/ interview. You may go into it know you are going to say “no” but you never know who will be in that room, or who someone in that room knows, that is the key to your network.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Sadly, seeing the best in people and trusting that people will come through with what they commit. Get everything it in writing so that you can save yourself hardship and complications down the line.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Totally unrelated to my personal business but I live in Colorado so…creating an app that allows you to point your camera phone at a mountain range or peak and having the screen display the ranges or peaks with their name. We can do it with constellations in space (e.g. Star Walk) but I have yet to see it for mountains which would have implications for recreational activity (hikers and hunters) to professional navigation (search and rescue and military use).

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Dinner date for my fiance and I. Just as watering a rose allows it to fully bloom, nurturing relationships with the ones that matter most will speak beauty in to your life. At the end of the day they are the ones who got us here, they are our success manifested.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I love apps. Right now a couple have been immensely helpful both professionally and personally. Asana is a great app/ platform for coordinating projects with multiple team members and tracking accountability of tasks assigned. This can be especially challenging for us when team members may be in other states or even countries. The second, not really an app but an email service called Protonmail. It’s an email server based out of Switzerland (we all know how good they are at keeping secrets and not sharing with anyone) that features end-to-end encryption, whose owners don’t even have access to their own servers so they couldn’t see your messages even if they were under court order. This is a very valuable tool when you are communicating with high profile or celebrity clients especially with regard to their proposed itinerary and location.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Oh my…too many. “Deep Work “by Cal Newport for focusing on things that matter and eliminating distractions, The Four Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey for maximizing the ability to accomplish goals in the midst of whirlwind of daily activity, to Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker because many of the ambitious, go-getters in this community neglect sleep to a physically detrimental level and this book explains why that does not only decrease performance and productivity but can actually decrease your lifespan. This question could probably be a full page long so I will stop there.

What is your favorite quote?

Today is victory over yourself; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.” Miyamoto Musashi


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